The End of a Dream? Boyd and the Goleta Pier Angler Center


Goleta Pier Angler Center

Sometimes things just don’t make sense. That was the reaction when word filtered out in September of 2011 that Boyd Grant, the venerable, Yoda-like “Pier Master” at the Goleta Pier had been asked to vacate his parking space at the County Park. The first reaction was an incredulous WHY? Why would the County do this? The second question asked was if his departure, from what in essence was his home, would be permanent and if it meant the end of the Angler Center?

A better question was if this was the end of a dream, a dream that had been over a decade in the making. In 1997 pierfishing.com came into existence. A few months later Boyd posted his first report, a recap of fishing at the Goleta and Gaviota piers. As communication began, a fellowship developed, and an uncommon interest in the Goleta Pier emerged.

Boyd, a gentle man, interested in the social welfare of his community, saw the pier and park as a perfect place to test a theory. Could a person, through individual example (and an amazing amount of hard work) make a real difference?

Boyd at the Angler Center

Could he impact the behavior of those visiting the pier and park, behavior that in the mid-2000s included a large contingent of homeless alcoholics and druggies who called the park their home and could be abusive and scary to the casual visitor.

Could he impact the fishermen on the pier? Could he bring his ethical views of angling and his “leave it cleaner upon departure than arrival” philosophy as far as pier cleanliness?

Lastly, could he impact the way the County treated the park and pier? Could he convince the County workers that they should take pride in their duties and get a buy in on the importance of the pier?

Ultimately he would be successful on the first two questions. His failure to achieve the third led to his removal and yes, both the closing of the Angler Center and the end of the dream.

His hard work and achievements are numerous. For years he maintained a website detailing the day-to-day activities at the pier. For two years he chronicled the conditions of the pier and recorded the various species that were landed. For two years he spent literally hundreds of hours cleaning the pier on his own, all voluntary, non-paid hours. He set up several statewide meetings of anglers, and was involved in a number of classes and derbies at the pier. He set up the installation of fishing line recycle bins at the pier.

And then, with the establishment of the UPSAC Angler Center at the pier in 2008, he became the official “Pier Host.” He became the eyes and ears of the pier; the man anglers could turn to for advice—including how to properly handle fish and other wildlife at the pier. He became a teacher, advisor, and ultimately a spokesman for the pier. Dozens of kid’s fishing tournament were conducted with his help at the pier. Dozens of injured birds were saved with his help. Untold numbers of anglers changed their views on angling under his gentle tutelage. Visitors and regulars alike gained a new respect for the environment at the pier. And hundreds and hundreds of hours were spent cleaning the pier.

In recognition of his accomplishments, Boyd himself and UPSAC were given recognition by the Santa Barbara Board of Supervisors in November 2010. Among the six stated accomplishments:

“Whereas, UPSAC volunteers have staffed the Goleta Pier Angler Center and have provided instructions to over 2,000 children and youth since the Goleta Pier Angler Center was opened…”

A scene at the 2010 UPSAC/GFA Kids Fishing Derby — Santa Barbara County Supervisor Janet Wolf and Park Assistant Director Erik Alexson picking raffle numbers.

“Whereas, the Goleta Pier volunteer host, Boyd Grant, in addition to staffing the Angler Center also cleans the handrails and benches of two-thirds of the Goleta Pier.”

“Therefore, be it hereby ordered and resolved that the Board of Supervisors of Santa Barbara County do hereby commend the United Pier and Shore Anglers of California, its Board of Directors, President Ken Jones, and Pier Host Boyd Grant for their services to our community and their efforts to support of the partnership with Santa Barbara County Parks to operate the Goleta Pier Angler Center.”

Santa Barbara County and UPSAC officials at the 2008 opening of the Angler Center.

A dynamic, synergistic effort seemed to be taking place and everyone seemed to be pleased. But as we all know, you can never please all the people all the time. An exodus of top personnel had left the Park District between 2008 and 2011 and new people were now in charge, people with different ideas and a different agenda. Unfortunately that agenda did not include support for Boyd or the Angler Center.

As the time of the 2008 agreement that established his position as Pier Host, Boyd had also agreed to be a Park Host. This allowed him to park his motor home at the park and remain in close proximity to the Angler Center. In exchange, as part of the Park Host Agreement, he was required to spend 20 hours per week cleaning the park. Boyd quickly developed a routine that would begin most mornings at 5AM. Clean the bathrooms, empty trashcans, pick up whatever flotsam and jetsam had been left by late night revelers, and clean the pier (which could be a monumental task in itself). Most days it would take at least three hours and then he would take a break, have a cup of coffee, and take a shower prior to heading out to the Angler Center to begin his duties as Pier Host (where he would typically work another 30-40 hours a week).

Boyd cleaning the pier

Out of necessity, Boyd had begun his day early, far before the rangers arrived at the park. Most respected the hard work and early hours but unfortunately those same hours would be used against him. When UPSAC was informed that Boyd had three weeks to leave the park, the charge was made that Boyd was not working the required 20 hours a week as Park Host (and that part of his hours were being spent on work for the Angler Center). Interviews with those in the know, the locals who visited the pier early in the morning themselves, verified his cleaning and the number of hours he worked. But Park personnel never bothered to interview the locals — and failed to say where they had gotten their information.

As talks continued in an attempt to work out a solution agreeable to both parties, one that would allow Boyd to stay at the Park, and the Angler Center to remain open, the reasons for Boyd’s removal evolved. New arguments were given by the Park personnel. The first was that Park Hosts are supposed to have a one-year limit at a park. After one year hosts have to move on to another park and give up their park position. UPSAC asked why this had never been enforced before? A number of people, including Boyd, had exceeded the one-year time limit. And though UPSAC argued that Boyd’s position was unique—since he was the only Pier Host (at the only park with a pier), and that his unique position justified a close proximity to the pier, the argument fell on deaf ears.

The final argument from the Park personnel was that the Park District was now out of money (although Park personnel seem to have a pretty hefty paycheck). The District’s argument was that the Park would need additional volunteer Park Hosts to maintain the park. They, in turn, would need all the available parking spaces. UPSAC argued that there was sufficient room for Boyd AND additional Park Hosts. UPSAC also argued that the Pier Host position should receive equal respect as the Park Host position. Again the arguments fell on deaf ears.

Given the variety of reasons given for his removal, the fact that these issues changed over the weeks of discussion, and that Boyd himself was never allowed to be part of the discussion (in fact was never given a face to face meeting until the last day when he was told to turn over his keys), it appears that the park personnel simply wanted him out. Why? The most likely reason was that, at times, he could be a thorn in their side. He asked park personnel to give the pier the attention it deserved, to do more at the park. He asked for additional cleaning supplies, he asked for support from management when there were problems at the park, and he refused to become a spokesman for the County Parks when it decided to push for paid parking and other changes he deemed detrimental to the park.

All Boyd wanted was to see people do their job. They perhaps would never have his interest in regards to the pier but at least they should realize that the pier was a key part of the park. This friction was most likely the real reason why he was asked to leave. It’s a problem that can crop up wherever there are moribund agencies that are poorly managed and staffed by poorly trained and motivated employees.

It is likely these are the true reasons for his departure and, most likely, the reasons for the end of a dream. Perhaps he simply wanted to do too much. Perhaps there is little room left for those such as Boyd who are willing to sacrifice their personal time and energy to improve a small piece of our society.

Perhaps it is the end of a dream and, if so, not only will the pier and the park itself suffer but so too the entire people of Santa Barbara County. Tis sad.

(An empty chair at a vacant Angler Center seems appropriate since the County seems to feel it’s time to retire Boyd and the Center.)


The Nitty Gritty California Pier Trivia Quizzes —

If you have read Pier Fishing in California you should be able to answer the following questions without breaking a sweat. If you can’t, I expect you to sleep the next seven nights with the book under your pillow. Just pretend it’s a love letter from your first boyfriend, girlfriend — or whatever.  By the way, the answers will be given at the bottom. And shame on those who do not have the book, you should get it.  

You will need to write your answers on a piece of paper.

Nitty Gritty California Pier Trivia Quiz #1

Citizen’s Dock                      Imperial Beach Pier              Berkeley Pier

Elephant Rock Pier              Seacliff State Beach Pier

Leopard Shark                      Round Stingray                    Bat Ray

            Brown Smoothhound Shark           Common Thresher Shark               

1. The end of this pier  is a sunken “concrete ship.”

2. This pier calls itself the most “southwesterly pier in the United States.”

3. This pier was built by the citizens of the town after a tidal wave washed away their former wharf.

4. This pier was the first to be funded and renovated by the California Wildlife Conservation Board.

5. When built, this pier was supposed to be reserved for kids.

6. Populations very dependent on water temperature; as the water temperature rises so does the presence of these fish.

7. These can be pests in areas that grow oysters commercially.

8. Extremely common in San Francisco Bay; one of the most numerous fish at some piers.

9. Caught throughout California but most common in San Francisco Bay.

10. Typically found in deep water but ventures surfside at night (so they can visit the piers).

Nitty Gritty Pier Trivia Quiz  #2

            Vallejo Pier              Newport Pier           Paradise Cove Pier  

                        Aliso Beach Pier                               Green Pleasure Pier

            Striped Bass                          Senorita                     Cabezon        

Candlestick Point Pier                     Belmont Shores Pier

1. Only twenty yellow snake eels have ever been landed in California. The largest ever taken of the species was a 34 1/2 inch specimen landed on a California pier.  On which pier was it landed

2. Although many piers have appeared in movies, television shows, and commercials, only one, to my knowledge, has been the home (sort of) to a television series. Hint: think of Jim Garner and the Rockford Files. Which pier?

3. Although fishing can be excellent from this pier, it is almost always empty of anglers during many Sundays in the Fall. Which pier and why?

4. A 194-pound, eight-foot-long white sturgeon was taken at this pier in 1980. Which pier?

5. This pier sits next to the last commercial dory fishing fleet on the West Coast. Which pier?

6. This pier is probably the best  is California from which to catch halfmoons (blue perch) or moray eels. Which pier?

7. This pier was built in a diamond shape so that anglers would be offered more railing space (they could fish in the middle of the pier).

8. Sometimes people don’t eat the meat of this fish because it is green or blue colored when they clean the fish. They’re missing a treat! Upon cooking, the meat turns white and is delicious. The roe however, is poisonous.

9. Although primarily known as a saltwater fish, the California record for the species was caught in a freshwater lake.

10. These fish are probably the best “bait stealers” in the state.

                      Nitty Gritty California Pier Trivia Quiz  #3

            Santa Monica Pier                Ocean Beach Pier                  Pier 7 

                        Capitola Wharf                                San Mateo Pier

     Manhattan Beach Pier         Crystal Pier               Adorni Fishing Pier            

Candlestick Point Pier                     South Beach Harbor Marina Pier

1. The Round House Marine Lab sits out at the end of this pier.

2. This is the only pier on the West Coast with cabins built over the blue Pacific.

3. The Pacific Park amusement park is located on this pier.

4. This pier sits next to Pac Bell Park, the home of the San Francisco Giants.

5. This pier is supposed to be the longest concrete pier in the world.

6. This pier sits within the oldest seaside resort on the Pacific Coast.

7. This pier is part of a beautiful recreation center.

8. A common name given to this pier by anglers who fish this pier is the shark pier. What is the real name.

9. This pier sits next to the former home of the San Francisco Giants.

10. More commercials are filmed at this pier than any other pier in northern California.

Answers to Nitty Gritty California Pier Trivia Quiz #1

(1)  Seacliff State Beach Pier  (2)  Imperial Beach Pier (3)  Citizen’s Dock  (4)  Berkeley Pier (5) Elephant Rock Pier (6) Round Stingray (7) Bat Rays  (8)  Brown Smoothhound Shark  (9) Leopard Shark (10) Common Thresher Shark

Answers to Nitty Gritty California Pier Trivia Quiz #2

(1) Belmont Shores Pier (2)  Paradise Cove Pier  (3) Candlestick Point Pier     (4) Vallejo Pier (5) Newport Pier (6) Green Pleasure Pier — Avalon (7) Aliso Beach Pier ( 8) Cabezon (9) Striped Bass (10) Senorita

Answers to Nitty Gritty California Pier Trivia Quiz #3

(1)  Manhattan Beach Pier (2) Crystal Pier (3) Santa Monica Pier (4) South Beach Harbor Marina Pier (5) Ocean Beach Pier (6) Capitola Wharf (7) Adorni Fishing Pier ( 8) San Mateo Pier (9) Candlestick Point Pier (10) Pier 7

Pacific Bonito — a true fighting fish

Bonito — Venice Pier

Mackerel and Tuna—Family Scombridae

Species: Sarda chiliensis (Cuvier, 1832); from the Greek word sarda  (an ancient name for an European species of bonito) and chiliensis (in reference to Chile, South America, where the species was first recognized). Subspecies (those in California): Sarda chiliensis lineolata.

Bonito — Ben Acker (DompfaBen), Cabrillo Mole, Avalon, Catalina Island

Alternate Names: Most commonly called bonehead but also given the names bone, boner, bonefish, flasher, Laguna tuna, magneto, bongo, striped tuna and little tuna. One of my favorites—from the PFIC Message Board—Mr. Bojangles. Called bonito del Pacífico oriental in Mexico.

Bonito — Venice Pier

Identification: Tuna-shaped, elongated and pointed at both ends; a series of 6 to 8 finlets that follow the second dorsal fin and anal fin. Coloring dark blue above with greenish reflections and a metallic luster shading into silver below; several dark oblique lines on the back.

Bonito with usual striping caught by Mahigeer (Hashem Nahid), Cabrillo Mole,  2016

Unusual striped bonito caught by Mahigeer, (Hashem Nahid), Cabrillo Mole, 2016

Size: To 40 inches although most caught from piers are less than 24 inches. For years the  California record fish was listed as a fish that was caught in Malibu Cove in 1978 with a weight of 22 lb 3 oz. Today the record is listed as a 21 lb 5 oz. fish taken at the 181 Spot in 2003. I’m not sure why the new, lighter fish is the record (and I haven’t been able to find out).

Bonito — Scott Geerds, Cabrillo Mole, Avalon, Catalina Island

Range: There are two subspecies. One, the northern population, Sarda chiliensis lineolata, is found from Southern Baja California and Gulf of California to Copper River in Alaska. The southern population, Sarda chiliensis chiliensis, is found in the subtropical eastern Pacific, Peru to Chile, and off Japan. As a general rule they’re only found north of Point Conception during El Niño, warm-water conditions (and I witnessed several large bonito, all over ten pounds, being caught off of Elk in Mendocino County during the El Niño year of 1983).

Bonito — Rita Magdamo, Cabrillo Mole, Avalon, Catalina Island

Habitat: Pelagic, although enters bays, especially those with warm water outlets.

Bonito — James Liu (GDude), Cabrillo Mole, Avalon, Catalina Island

Piers: Common at most southland piers during and after warm-water years, both those in bays and those at oceanfront spots. Best bets: Ocean Beach Pier, Oceanside Pier, San Clemente Pier, Balboa Pier, Newport Pier, Cabrillo Mole (Avalon)—#1, Redondo Beach Pier, and the Hermosa Beach Pier. Stearns Wharf (Santa Barbara) and Goleta Pier can be decent, especially in the fall.

Bonito — Mike Donahue (SD Pier Rat), Ocean Beach Pier, San Diego

Shoreline: Sometimes taken by shore anglers fishing from jetties in southern California, especially the jetty at Redondo Beach.

Bonito — Mike Granat, Balboa Pier

Boats: One of the favored boat species although the numbers can show a drastic change year-to-year depending upon water temperature.

Angie and her first bonito — Balboa Pier

Bait and Tackle: Bonito primarily feed on fish and squid and are taken on a variety of baits and lures. The best bait is live anchovies or small sardines fished on a sliding leader or with a cast-a-bubble. The best lure is a bonito feather affixed to either a cast-a-bubble, a wooden float, a Styrofoam float, or a golf ball—the bubble/float/golf ball causes commotion on the surface which attracts the bonito and keeps the lure near the top.

Bonito — Scott Geerds, Cabrillo Mole, Avalon, Catalina Island

Food Value:  Bonito are considered fairly good quality but require cleaning soon after capture. If bled quickly, or even better if filleted and then put on ice, the flesh can be quite tasty. However, if allowed to warm up in a gunnysack on the nice hot surface of a pier the flesh can be almost inedible (which is true with many fish). Some parts of the flesh are dark colored—bloody and strong flavored. Remove those parts of the flesh unless you desire them for smoking. Given the high oil content of the flesh, the best cooking methods are broiling or bar-b-cuing the meat; the worst are methods like deep-frying that would add more oil. In addition, smoked bonito and pickled bonito are also very good.

When I was young, and lived in San Diego, I would often go out on the half-day boats to catch some bonito. Most of the bonito (in the gunnysacks) would wind up as fertilizer for my mom’s roses. However, a couple of the cooks on the boats would cook up some of the fresh-caught fish. A favorite method was to cut thin slices of meat from the head of the bonito (up behind the eyes) and then lightly cook the slices on a grill using just a little butter. Flavored with soy sauce, it was delicious.

Today, given that we’ve all become goumands, we would probably serve the thin slices raw as sashimi and include a little dipping sauce, i.e., wasabi paste and soy sauce draped over a daikon radish. One recommended dipping sauce even includes fish flakes from bonito, it’s a sauce made from shōyu (a type of soy sauce), mirin (a sweet cooking wine) and the bonito flakes.

Bonito — Hashem Nahid (Mahigeer), Cabrillo Mole, Avalon, Catalina Island

Comments: Many people feel that bonito are among the strongest fighting fish, pound for pound, in the sea. For many years the place to go for bonito was the Redondo Sportfishing Pier in Redondo Harbor. This was especially true during the colder-weather, winter months. That narrative was altered when the nearby power plant changed ownership and changed procedures. Instead of always being on, and sending a steady stream of hot water into the harbor (where it emerged at the famous “bubble hole”), it became a sporadic occurrence. Visitors never knew when the hot water, or the bonito, would be showing up.  Locals learned to check out the tall towers to see if they were emiting smoke. If they were, the hot water would be bubbling up in the harbor and bonito probably would be present. Today the pier is closed but hopefully will be rebuilt. Many also hope the warm water will return to the harbor.

Bonito or bonita? The correct spelling is bonito but a surprisingly high number of people over the years, including journalists and writers who should know better, have used bonita as the moniker for these fish. One day on the Pier Fishing in California message board someone said his daughter had been called a bonito and she got upset until someone told her that the name meant pretty in Spanish. People then chimed in that she should have been called a bonita since that was the feminine name and bonito was the masculine name. As for the fish, given the strong, powerful fight they typically put up, I think I will stick with bonito as the name.

Bonito — San Clemente Pier

Bonito —Stecve Barcellos (SteveO), Cabrillo Mole, Avalon, Catalina Island

Bonito — Imperial Beach Pier

Bonito — Adam Cassidy (Baitfish), Cabrillo Mole, Avalon, Catalina Island

Bonito — Kyle Pease, Cabrillo Mole, Avalon, Catalina Island

Bonito — Kyle Pease, Avalon, Catalina Island

Bonito — Rita Magdamo, Cabrillo Mole, Avalon, Catalina Island

Bonito — Ken Jones (The Pier Fisherman), Cabrillo Mole, Avalon, Catalina Island

Bonito — Steve Barcellos (SteveO), Cabrillo Mole, Avalon, Catalina Island

“Tres Bonitos” — Rita Magdamo, Ross Kestin (GordoGrande), and Kyle Pease, Cabrillo Mole, Avalon, Catalina Island

Bonito caught at the  Goleta Pier in 2016 by seabass.seeker

My son Mike with a good-sized bonito and small yellowtail

A big bonito caught on the “Sea Wolf”


“Stuck in Catalina With the Bonito Blues Again”

Written for and dedicated to Hashem aka Mahigeer when he was seeking out his first bonito at Catalina in 2006. Although the rest of the UPSAC/PFIC gang was pulling in the bonies, Hashem just couldn‘t seem to hook one. Today he’s learned the “Tao of Bonito.”

Bonito —Hashem Nahid (Mahigeer), Cabrillo Mole, Avalon, Catalina Island

Oh, the Dompha, he draws circles
Up and down the mole.
I’d ask him what the matter was
But I know that he don’t talk.
And the anglers treat me kindly
And furnish me with line,
But deep inside my heart
I know I can’t escape.
Oh, Mama, can this really be the end,
To be stuck in Catalina
With the bonito blues again.

Well, Ken, he’s in the alley
With his pointed shoes and his bells,
Speaking to some French girl,
Who says she knows me well.
And I would send a message
To find out if she’s talked,
But the tackle store’s been stolen
And the tackle box is locked.
Oh, Mama, can this really be the end,
To be stuck in Catalina
With the bonito blues again.

Gordo tried to tell me
To stay away from that Catalina mole
He said that all those older fishermen
Just drink up your blood like wine.
An’ I said, “Oh, I didn’t know that,
But then again, there’s only one I’ve met
An’ he just smoked my eyelids
An’ punched my cigarette.”
Oh, Mama, can this really be the end,
To be stuck in Catalina
With the bonito blues again.

Grandpa died last week
And now he’s buried in the kelp,
But everybody still talks about
How badly they were shocked.
But me, I expected it to happen,
I knew he’d lost control
When he built a fire on the mole
And shot it full of holes.
Oh, Mama, can this really be the end,
To be stuck in Catalina
With the bonito blues again.

Now the GDude came down here
Showing ev’ryone his rod,
Handing out free tickets
To the gathering on the mole.
An’ me, I nearly got busted
An’ wouldn’t it be my luck
To get caught without a license
And be discovered beneath a trunk.
Oh, Mama, can this really be the end,
To be stuck in Catalina
With the bonito blues again.

Now Baitfish looked so baffled
When I asked him why he dressed
With twenty pounds of feathers
Stapled to his chest.
But he cursed me when I proved it to him,
Then I whispered, “Not even you can hide.
You see, you’re just like me,
I hope you’re satisfied.”
Oh, Mama, can this really be the end,
To be stuck in Catalina
With the bonito blues again.

Now Mahigeer gave me two cures,
Then he said, “Jump right in.”
The one was Persian medicine,
The other was just plain Raki gin.
An’ like a fool I mixed them
An’ it strangled up my mind,
An’ now people just get uglier
An’ I have no sense of time.
Oh, Mama, can this really be the end,
To be stuck in Catalina
With the bonito blues again.

When Rita says come see her
In her honky-tonk lagoon,
Where I can watch her waltz for free
‘Neath her Avalonian moon.
An’ I say, “Aw come on now,
You must know about my debutante.”
An’ she says, “Your debutante just knows what you need
But I know what you want.”
Oh, Mama, can this really be the end,
To be stuck in Catalina
With the bonito blues again.

Now the bricks lay on Metropole
Where the neon madmen climb.
They all fall there so perfectly,
It all seems so well timed.
An’ here I sit so patiently
Waiting to find out what price
You have to pay to get new balls and feathers
After losing them more than twice.
Oh, Mama, can this really be the end,
To be stuck in Catalina
With the bonito blues again.

(With apologies to Bob Dylan and “Stuck Inside of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again)


The Point Mugu Pier — Gone But Not Forgotten

The Point Mugu Pier

A locally popular fishing pier was one that existed for years at the Naval Air Station at Pt. Mugu. As to be expected, access was limited to military personnel and their dependents but apparently it was an excellent pier for many species including deep-water fish from time to time. Unfortunately the winter storms of 1993 not only destroyed the pier but also hammered and rearranged the entire beach area. Today both pier and beach are gone but the Pt. Mugu Lagoon bears witness to an area that once was a favored source of recreation.

Sinker, (Tm Durham) one of the original leaders on the Pier Fishing in California  Message Board fondly remembers the pier: “The (Pt. Mugu) pier was located on the Naval Air Station, Pt. Mugu—U.S. Navy Base. It was actually the second pier built on the base. The first was destroyed during an early storm but they chose not to rebuild that one as they put in a jet engine test facility in that area. They did build another one though, which is what I am familiar with. This pier is listed in my biography as my father and I spent many, many hours and days there. When I returned from New York I went to fish that pier only to find that the last bad El Nino not only took it out but also the Officers Club, the Beach Cabins and the Beach Motel. They used to have beaches on either side of the pier (one for enlisted and one for officers). The Officers Beach no longer exists as the natural lagoon has overtaken the large beach area. I used to fish the entrance to the lagoon for sharks with great success and the pier saw absolutely incredible fishing. From my Biography, under Favorite Pier: ‘this pier was incredible—halibut, croaker, bonito, smelt, queenfish, bass, rockfish, perch, sharks, rays, crabs, lobsters—you name it, this pier has pretty well seen it. This pier is where I learned the most about fishing, technique, presentation, knots, fish identification, proper and safe handling of fish (for myself and them), how to clean a fish, how to keep my area clean and safe—all this from my FATHER. We spent countless days and nights on that pier where he taught me what I now know and shared the secrets of life, listened to my problems and helped me make them better…’ I am not sure why this pier produced such a wide variety of fish species but it did include many warmer water species and unfortunately a lot of bullheads. I do know there is a deep submarine channel out there and maybe that brought in some fish. We also got lots of halibut and I caught my first squid on that pier. I loved watching them spit at you when you got them out of the water; Î also caught my first octopus there. They now have a memorial for the Alaskan Air Liner that went down off the Mugu Coast. The lagoon, being one of the last natural lagoons in Southern California, is completely restricted and has also now become a refuge for sea lions and the such.”

The pier’s history apparently dates back to the early 20th Century when the Mugu Fish Camp was built along with a 200-foot-long pier (see below). That pier was heavily damaged in the storms of 1939 that damaged many of the southern California piers.

The pier was rebuilt and would last until the storms of the ‘80s and ’90s once again damaged the pier—this time for good. Today it’s only a memory.

Two fishing barges are recorded as operating from Point Mugu, the Pt. Mugu I and the Pt. Mugu II, both in the 1930s.

As far as fish from the pier, the largest I have been able to track down was a 41-pound white seabass taken from the pier in August of 1959 by Charles Leonard, a chief aviation machinist’s mate at Point Mugu Naval Air Station. As recorded by the local paper, “Chief Leonard said he lured the ‘big fellow’ with live bait, but withheld the type of bait as his trade secret.”

Not too far offshore is located the submarine, deepwater canyon usually simply called the Mugu Trench, a canyon that can funnel deepwater fish into the inshore area. One notable fish was a louvar (Luvarus imperialis) that was caught on the Point Mugu Beach in 1939. The 13 3/4-pound fish was one of only a handful of the fish that have been seen in California.

The Point Mugu Fish Camp — The (Mostly) Good Old Days

Finds Fish Camp Most Restful Vacation Spot

Ted Diefenbach is home from a week’s vacation, which was the most restful and delightful that he has yet enjoyed. He spent it at the Point Mugu fishing camp, where he enjoyed swimming, boating, fishing, hiking and has attained a beautiful coat of tan. “That’s the place for a restful vacation,” Ted says. Board and room may he secured at the camp besides many are living in tents. The fishing camp is located about 10 or 12 miles from Oxnard on the strand beyond the Point Mugu lagoon, which will be the next big development in this section, according to some.

Oxnard Daily Courier, Oxnard, California, July 25, 1927

The Point Mugu Fish Camp has secured a large Live Bait Fishing Boat, The Star Light. And are now ready to take passengers on trips to the Anacapa, Santa Cruz or other points of interest to Sportsmen or Fisherman. Will Charter for Private parties. Fisherman are now bringing in Jew Fish, Halibut, Rock Cod, White Fish, Bass and other varieties freely the last few days. Also good fishing on the Barges outside.

Oxnard Daily Courier, Oxnard, California, June 5, 1929

 Fishermen Break Pt. Mugu Camp Record

Fishermen from Santa Paula and Venture broke the halibut record at Point Mugu this week for season and gave local anglers something “big” to aim for. Harvey Schuyler, 139 Oak street, Santa Paula, last Sunday landed a 53-pound halibut from the barge, the largest so far for 1935. The halibut measured 56 inches in length and 22 inches in width. W. J. Stuart, 222 ½ Vince street, Ventura, on the same day, topped the previous pier record of 31 pounds by taking a 33 pounder. However, Los Angeles anglers seem to favor the big ones, as Ray Darsie, Griffith Park Golf course, on July 30, landed from the barge a 400 pound jewfish. This makes more than a dozen large jewfish landed this season from the barge, practically all by Los Angeles fishermen.

During the past week halibut fishing slowed up somewhat in quantity but on average were larger. Sunday crowds continue to fill the pier, while there is elbow room for those who are able to do so, throughout the week days.

Oxnard Daily News, August 3, 1935

The angriest sea in the county’s history took a toll of fishing boats and lives. The Sportfishing boat Spray went aground on Point Mugu with a loss of 23 lives, the Point Mugu Fish Camp was a shambles and the Coast Guard was kept busy helping several boats in distress.

Oxnard Press-Courier, Oxnard, California, October 3, 1939

The Point Mugu Fish Camp announced the opening of a new all-electric restaurant, along with the rebuilt camp, specializing in fish dinners.

Oxnard Press-Courier, Oxnard, California, June 28, 1940

The [Oxnard] district boasts the Southlands leading fishing center—Point Mugu Fish Camp—which is the haven for surf, pier and deep sea fishing. Almost daily, parties of fishermen leave the piers at the harbor and at Point Mugu. The channel between here and the islands long has been the favorite winters for fisherman.

Oxnard Press-Courier, Oxnard, California, July 2, 1940

Famed Movie Setting—The Point Mugu Fish Resort not only is well known to fisherman of the Southland, but is well known, too, to the movieland. Above is the area when it was used as the setting for the Philippine Islands during the Spanish-American war.

—Oxnard Press-Courier, Oxnard, California, July 2, 1940

Point Mugu Pier — 1979

POINT MUGU — Where once there were fishermen, now there are warriors.

At the Point Mugu Naval Air Weapons Station north of Malibu, archeologists have spent the last week unearthing the remains of a once-thriving fishing village founded by a Japanese businessman at the turn of the century.

During its heyday in the 1930s, the Mugu Fish Camp just off Pacific Coast Highway was a popular playground for movie executives from Hollywood, who cruised up the coastal highway to hunt waterfowl at Mugu Lagoon, fish off a 200-foot wooden pier and luxuriate in a Japanese-style communal bath.

“I think at the time it was like going to Vegas,” said base archaeologist Steve Schwartz, the man who instigated the dig. “If you were a big shot, that’s what you did. And it’s been totally forgotten.”

The fish camp had been forgotten until the brutal winter storms of 1995 broke through a massive sea wall built by the Navy 30 years ago, pummeling the beach-side buildings that had been constructed on top of the site. The military planned to tear down the buildings and remove what remains of the sea wall.

That gave Schwartz an idea. He had seen plenty of photographs of the old fishing village–black and white images of wooden cabins, the tackle store, the concrete bait tanks that lined the entry to the pier. But he wanted to see what lay under the Navy’s former laundry.

Armed with a $175,000 Navy grant and the help of a San Diego firm that specializes in historical research and archaeological digs, Schwartz is getting just what he wanted.

“So the first thing we did was find the bait tanks,” Schwartz said with satisfaction, leading a tour of the sandy site, where the concrete foundations of three tanks stand exposed in a neat row, a fourth crumbling into the sand. The bottoms still have traces of the original bluish-gray paint.

When the fish camp was booming, sportsmen could pick up tackle and sundries at the little store on the other side of the pier, then mosey over to the tanks to select their bait. A trained seal lived in a fifth tank, now lost to time and the sea.

Schwartz said Japanese businessman Frank Kubota founded the village, building the store, cafe, six wooden cabins and a series of tent cabins along the beach. The date of the construction is uncertain, but Schwartz said the first photographs he has seen of Kubota’s village are from 1912.

Kubota also built a bridge across the marshy, wildlife-filled lagoon as an entryway to the camp from Pacific Coast Highway. It was a toll bridge, costing 25 cents to walk across and a $1 to drive across.

From what Schwartz has learned, Kubota went to jail for bootlegging at some point in the 1930s, turning over operation of the fish camp to Walter and Marguerite Welton. In 1939, Kubota sold the camp and returned to Japan, taking with him the profits from his business and leaving behind its remnants for archaeologists to find decades later.

In a week of digging, archaeologists have turned up sake bottles, rice bowls, pieces of the hurricane lamps that lighted the camp at night, whiskey bottles and an alarm clock caked with rust and missing its face.

On Wednesday, the diggers came upon a real find–the remains of the communal Japanese bath. Brushing away years of accumulated sand, they found pipes for hot and cold water. Schwartz believes the concrete foundation was once capped by a redwood tub. Tired fisherman would lounge in the tub, probably sipping sake or whiskey.

“Pretty relaxing after a day of gutting fish,” Schwartz said.

The entire fish camp had to be rebuilt after a storm of hurricane intensity hit the coast in September 1939, killing 28 passengers on a pleasure boat as it attempted to return to the camp from a trip to Anacapa Island.

During World War II, after the devastation from the storm and the rebuilding effort, the Navy took over to build a base. The fish camp’s cafe became a mess hall and the cabins were used for storage. Bit by bit, most of the camp was built over, until only the pier and cabins remained. The pier was damaged by storms in 1988 and capsized last year in the same storms that destroyed all but one of the cabins.

When the dig is completed in another week, the Navy plans to establish a museum in that last cabin, now relocated to a safe spot across the road. The archaeologists are videotaping the dig and photographing everything they find.

With the ocean always advancing, Navy officials say there is little point in trying to preserve the unearthed foundations except on film.

“They’re not going to last,” Schwartz said. “They’re already beginning to be washed out.”

But this time, he said he hopes that the fishing village won’t be forgotten.

—Mary F. Pols, Line to the Past, Los Angeles Times. July 26, 1996

Point Mugu Pier —1972

Point Mugu to be honored with historic site designation

How times have changed since the Mugu Fish Camp and pier at Point Mugu was a serene recreational destination for Ventura County residents and people from the inland areas of Southern California. To be sure, the drone of propeller-driven airplanes probably prompted a quick look from visitors, but the thunderous roar of supersonic jets was still well beyond their imagination.

So, no doubt, was the thought that the area would one day be called a historic site. That designation will come this afternoon.

Built about 1929-30 on a sand spit between the ocean and Mugu Lagoon, the camp offered local fishing from the pier and deep-water fishing from chartered boats.

Eventually, the area grew to include tent cabins, small houses, a store and cafe. Movies such as “The Real Glory” with Gary Cooper and “A Yank in the RAF” with Tyrone Power were shot near the lagoon.

And then, on Dec. 7, 1941, America was pulled into World War II. The military cocked its covetous eye at the land and coastal possibilities offered by Mugu and, slowly, everything began to change.

By 1942, a military camp was taking shape on some 4,000 acres of beach and tidal marshlands around the lagoon. Army anti-aircraft batteries and Seabees began training there, the Seabees building the first runway, 5,000 feet long, with metal Marsden mats.

Loons, American versions of the German V-1 rockets, were test-fired at the base. A dirt knoll was built on the beach that had a Loon launch pad, catapult and operations building.

In 1946, President Truman approved the building of the Naval Air Missile Test Center at Point Mugu. Three years later, the Naval Air Station was established to provide the test center with logistical and operational support. Since then, the base has undergone several organizational overhauls and testing has evolved with developing technology, but the mission has been steadfast: to put the best weapons possible in the Navy’s arsenal.

—John Mitchell, The Ventura County Star, November 14, 2003


The Belmont Pier Marlin Club —

The entrance to the Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier—Long Beach

This nearly 50-year-old story ranks among my favorite pier fishing stories of all time.

Eye Opener—Belmont Pier Marlin Club

Thursday wasn’t exactly a good day to have lunch with the Belmont Pier Marlin Club, but it was the best offer I had. I mean I don’t want to be a prophet of gloom and doom and I’m not going to mention that nasty word that ends in “cession,” but don’t you think luncheon invitations are getting scarcer?

It was a bad day for the Belmont Pier Marlin Club because the wind was blowing, which is bad for fishing, but, anyway, I made my way to the pier and found Pop Shoat, the club’s executive vice president, leaning over the railing and gazing placidly at the spot where his line slanted into the blue water.

“Hiya, son.” he said, waggling his white beard-stubble in greeting. He unwrapped a piece of newspaper from around a package of sandwiches. “Have a sandwich. That’s your column they’re wrapped in.” “Gee, thanks.” I said, overwhelmed by this expression of esteem. “I read Hollingworth. too,” he explained, “but I save him to wrap the fish I catch.”

“It’s fresher material.” I agreed. There is not an ounce of professional jealousy in me. “Do they pay Hollingworth, or is that just a hobby?” “Dr. Honk Hollingworth.” I said, “is on the payroll as director of our department of vicarious physical education.”

A three-wheel electric auto came dashing down the pier blandly ignoring the sign that said, “No motor vehicles beyond this point.” There were more vehicles beyond that point than on the legal side of it. Some Long Beach electric auto salesman has been making a killing by telling his customers they are driven by rubber bands, maybe.

“What I wanted to talk to you about,” Pop said as he rebaited his hook, “is getting the city to put up a flagpole on the pier for the Marlin Club. Stand back while I cast.” He gracefully snapped an overhand cast that carried his hook far out from the pier and watched his sinker splash into the water. I watched the sign that said. “No overhead casting.”

“I’m no lobbyist.” I said. “Besides, why does the Belmont Pier Marlin Club need a flagpole?” “To fly a marlin flag, in case somebody catches a marlin.”

“I have checked this out with Riley Compton of the Belmont Bait & Tackle,” I said. “You catch mostly small fish—perch, herring, corbina. Now and then you get a 10 or 12 pound halibut. Last year, a big white sea bass was landed. But in the history of living man, no one has caught a marlin off the Belmont Pier.”

Pop pulled a flask from his gear box. “How about a snort?” he said. I glanced disapprovingly at him and then at the sign that said, “Consumption of alcoholic beverages not permitted on pier.” “Geritol,” he said. “Somebody might catch a marlin. And it would bring an awful lot of fishermen to Long Beach if there was a marlin flagpole here and they thought we needed it.

“Mere tourists,” I said. “The dropline trade. They’d crowd the regulars away from the railing.” “That’s happening now,” Pop said.

“The truant officers ought to tighten up on kids playing hookey. Us retired gaffers can’t elbow on even terms against those kids.”

He reached for the Geritol and kicked over the carton of ghost shrimp that was the bait of the teenager next to him. “Sorry,” he said. The teenager gave him a hurt look, “That’s the third time you’ve done that,” the boy said. He picked up his gear and moved down the pier. Pop chuckled gleefully. “Whippersnapper,” he said

—Bob Wells, Long Beach Independent, February 3, 1962